I haven't reviewed a new CD for a while. I've got some new ones in the pipeline, but here is the first:
Chicago - The Nashville Sessions
When it comes to Chicago, I'm a bit of a complete-ist. I have all of the numbered albums, either on Vinyl or on CD, plus one "boot" of the Toronto concert that everyone seems to have released, as well as Live in Japan on MP3s. I also have several of the solo albums by Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera and the Howland-Imboden Project (and HLMP). I don't have any of the DVD's, but there are a couple on my wish-list.
The problem with Chicago is the lack of new music. Several years ago we got XXX (2005?), which I don't know how that was achieved except through counting some greatest hits and Christmas albums in the numbering. What are 27-29? Good question. What is 22? Another good question, since it was later released as XXXII (recorded in 1994?). What is 31? Apparently there is an album of new music in the works. What will they name that? 40?
The Nashville Sessions is un-numbered, so it avoids that issue (maybe). It is a re-recording of 15 of their mostly-Kath-era hits. (There are two lame Donnie Dacus-era songs, too, from Hot Streets.)
Why did I buy it?
I was hoping it would be an updating of the hits like the live Chicago 26 album with the latest personnel, but it wasn't. Recorded in 2009, Bill Champlin is gone, but there is no sign of the two new guys, Lou Pardini, and Walfredo Reyes (who arrived later). I can live with that, but the premise of this album is wrong. What they have done is re-recorded the songs almost exactly as they originally appeared, attempting to even duplicate some inaccuracies.
Got me. You get the same solos, for the most part, and as much a re-creation of the original vocals as they could assemble without Kath, Cetera, or Dacus. You get the singles versions of Make Me Smile and More than Ever, crunched together to simulate the Ballet for the Girl in Buchanon, but separating out Color My World. They even further truncated the ending of More than Ever for no obvious reason. Was this an error in the editing room?
The sound is clearer than the originals, although I think the saxophone is further back in the brass mix, especially evident in the songs from Chicago VI. They might have tracked the brass individually, and that means they don't blend as well as in the old 16-track masters. The brass doesn't seem as full as in the original Chicago II recordings, although it is cleaner. The originals were noisy and slightly distorted, and very flat, even in the Rhino re-release. The brass in general might be further back in the mix, and are much drier.
Do I regret buying it (for $13.99)?
Well, yes, I suppose. For what it is, it is over-priced. You can only get it direct from the band through TopSpin Records, and the label is Chicago Records II, not to be confused with Chicago Records, who released 26, and some of the greatest hits albums. I don't know the story, but I assume they wound up that entity when they signed their deal with Rhino, only to reform after their Rhino contract was complete.
Chicago has yet to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for me, it is easy to see why: Terry Kath. He was a great guitarist, but the band never moved on. Even with this release they are re-hashing Kath-era hits in order to solidify their HOF creds. He died over 30 years ago guys, get over it! You will only find new fans with new music by the new guys. That's what Deep Purple has done over and over again. Simper is gone, so is Coverdale, so is Bolin, so is Blackmore, so is now Jon Lord. They moved on and another new album is imminent. They are already playing the new songs in concert before the release. That's how you do it. That's how you build and rebuild your audience. Stop trying to sound like Chicago 1976. Be Chicago 2013. Chicago was envisioned to be a faceless brand, but has turned into a Terry Kath tribute band.
2 (out of 5) stars for me, because the originals were so good, but I don't need yet another rehash of the hits.